New Year’s Day finds many of us putting up calendars for the new year and considering the prospect of cold weather ahead. Fortunately for Texas gardeners, even these cool months can be a time to grow and enjoy the spicy leaves of mustard (Brassica juncea).
Although there are six varieties of mustard grown world-wide, only two are more commonly grown in the southern states. The herb mustard (B. juncea var. juncea) is the plant grown for its spicy seeds. This is the mustard seed used to make brown or Dijon mustard. The other mustard often grown is Southern or curled mustard (B. juncea var. crispifolia), which is used as a salad or cooking vegetable.
Both types of mustard are best started by seed in the Texas garden during the colder months. Some gardeners plant as early as Thanksgiving but it’s not too late to plant now at the start of the new year. Being members of the cabbage family, mustards tolerate cold weather and even light frosts that occasionally sweep down from Canada.
Sow seeds of either mustard where they will enjoy full sun. Once the seeds germinate, thin the plants to about nine inches apart. The seedlings you remove can be washed and added to salads for a spicy flavor. As your mustard grows, harvest leaves as desired.
Once the weather gets hot, mustard will bolt and flower. Both herb mustard and curled mustard self-sow easily. To avoid having the curled mustard seed out and spread across your garden, clip the flowers as soon as they appear. Allow the herb mustard to flower and form seed pods. Harvest the seed pods as soon as they turn brown. Give them several weeks to dry further before removing the tiny seeds from the pods for use in cooking.